July 23, 2016

Mostly sunny

Browns rookie Jabaal Sheard catching on

BEREA — Jabaal Sheard has big plans for the Browns’ preseason opener Saturday against the Green Bay Packers.

The rookie defensive end says he will go all-out to sack Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and send the defending Super Bowl champions home with a loss.

“That would be awesome,” said Sheard, who was selected in the second round with the 37th overall pick in the NFL Draft. “I’d have to count on the rest of my D-linemen and our defense to hold up with (cornerback) Joe Haden back there, but it would be great.

“I’d be excited. My mom would be at the game. My family would be there. I don’t know what to say. That would just be crazy against the Super Bowl champs.”

Crazy, yet plausible at the same time, given how quickly Sheard has acclimated himself to the pro game.

A four-year standout at the University of Pittsburgh, he has essentially won a starting spot before Cleveland’s first exhibition game has been played.

While there are only a handful of position battles, it’s a near-lock that Jayme Mitchell (left end), fellow rookie Phil Taylor (tackle), Ahtyba Rubin (tackle) and Sheard (right end) will comprise the front of the 4-3 defense.

“Jabaal’s been very steady, steadier than you might expect from a rookie, in terms of just generally playing well,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Wednesday. “That’s good. He’s tired and sore right now, but we like to think when he gets his legs freshened for a game situation, he’ll be more explosive.”

The 6-foot-3, 254-pounder has been effective practicing against perennial Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas, who says he is enjoying their one-on-one competition.

Sheard, though, believes he is still a work in progress. After earning Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors at left end in 2010, he now is on the opposite side of the line.

“Everything is different, from stance to just getting used to using your other arm,” he said. “You use mostly your right arm on the left, but now I’ve gotta use more of my left arm and my left shoulder. It’s flipping your body and switching your hips.

“Naturally, I guess the left side would be more comfortable, but the right side with no tight end and chip block coming, that’s great.”

To his credit, Sheard came to training camp in good shape, which has allowed him to get through the first 12 days without a significant injury. He tweaked a hamstring early on, but recovered quickly to power past veteran Marcus Benard on the depth chart.

The Hollywood Hills, Fla., resident also has displayed an array of pass-rushing techniques, which have been a pleasant surprise to everyone at practice.

“He’s got plenty of moves,” Shurmur said, laughing. “You and I have no moves. He’s got plenty of moves. He’s good.”

Sheard credited Thomas for helping him modify his plan of attack, which is something they work on each day.

“In college, I used to bull rush and put my head down, but Joe catches me with that and can just push me to the ground,” he said. “It fazed me a little bit at the beginning, but I think I’m catching on now. We’ll see how it goes in this first game.”

Though Sheard hopes to make an impact in his preseason debut, his longer-term goal is to be introduced with the rest of the first-teamers on Sept. 11, when Cincinnati visits in the regular-season opener.

“It would be a great honor and I’d be excited,” he said. “I know my family would be excited. I’ve just got to continue to work hard and get better out here and show Coach that I can play.

“Hopefully, I can do that Saturday.”

Day 12 at Browns camp

NEWS OF THE DAY: The defense dominated the offense in a trio of two-minute drills, getting an interception from rookie cornerback James Dockery and forcing two long field goal attempts. Rookie kicker Jeff Wolfert made a 42-yarder, but missed from 51, allowing the defense to score a 2-1 victory. The offense’s lone points came on a drive by backup quarterback Seneca Wallace.

CAMPER OF THE DAY: Wide receiver Greg Little grabbed a bomb from starting quarterback Colt McCoy in the end zone, along with several shorter slant passes. Despite his inconsistent hands, the second-round pick from North Carolina continues to go higher in the air for receptions than anyone else on the roster.

PLAY OF THE DAY: Third-string quarterback Jarrett Brown threw a long touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver L.J. Castile. Brown rolled to his right and flicked the ball to Castile, who used a double-move to outfox Dockery. All three have been praised by coach Pat Shurmur in recent days.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Our offensive line is playing extremely well, which is not a surprise with the guys we have there. They are the strong point of our offense.” — Browns quarterback Colt McCoy.

POINT OF INTEREST: Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi had the large, hard cast on his left foot replaced with a walking boot. Shurmur said it was “possible” Massaquoi will be “running around next week,” but stressed there was no timetable for the team’s top wideout to return to practice.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE: Practice open to the public from 8:45 a.m.-11:15 a.m.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.